Outbreaks of delta variant spark concern at Calgary hospital

Outbreaks of the delta variant at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary are sparking concern as some with both doses of the vaccine are still getting affected with the variant.

Alberta Health Services says symptoms have been mild, with 1 of 22 affected requiring ICU care

Calgary's Foothills Medical Centre has seen 22 cases of the Delta variant, including 16 patients and six health-care workers on two units. (Alberta Health Services)

Outbreaks of the delta variant at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary are sparking concern as some with both doses of the vaccine are still getting affected with the variant.

"We're scared, very concerned," said Wayne Stopa, a registered nurse and a vice-president with United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) Local 115. 

"A lot of us have had the double vaccines already … and to find out people are still getting affected with the delta variants is quite concerning to all the staff."

The delta variant, otherwise known as B.1.617.2, has battered the U.K. and prompted calls for a delayed reopening.

At the Foothills hospital, 16 patients on two units — as well as six health-care workers — have tested positive for the delta variant.

Six of the patients and five of the health-care workers received two doses of the vaccine, while seven patients and one health-care worker had a single dose. All of those infected were vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine.

Alberta Health Services said it's important to remember that even after immunization, it is still possible to contract COVID-19.

However, people are less likely to experience severe illness or require hospitalization with either one or two doses, said spokesperson Kerry Williamson.

"For example, in the case of these two outbreaks, only one of the 22 people have required ICU care," Williamson said in an email. "The majority of both patients and healthcare workers have experienced mild symptoms."

WATCH | How does the delta variant impact vaccine rollouts and reopening?

How does the delta variant impact vaccine rollouts and reopening?

1 year ago
Duration 5:12
Two infectious diseases specialists answer questions about the delta coronavirus variant — first identified in India and also known as B.1.617 — including how it could impact vaccine rollouts and reopening plans in Canada.

Williamson said the vaccines are about 73 per cent effective against the B.1.1.7 variant after one dose, and 91 per cent after two doses.

They are about 33 per cent effective against the delta variant after the first dose, he said, and rise to more than 80 per cent effective after the second dose.

"[Those rates are] why it's so important to get immunized, with both first and second doses," Williamson said.

More investigation needed

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alberta, said it will be important to see what the investigation into these cases turns up.

"The things that I'm considering right now are that, a hospitalized population isn't necessarily representative of the general population," she said. "Some of that number might be people who would be at really significant risk of having a suboptimal vaccine response because of their medical condition.

"So the details, as they go through the investigation steps, I think, will be really important to understand whether this changes what we understand about this variant or not."

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw wrote on Twitter that while vaccines provide excellent protection and dramatically reduce the risk of severe outcomes, they do not "make us invincible."

"Even after immunization, it is rare but possible to contract COVID-19," she wrote. 

"Thanks to vaccines, even then you are less likely to experience severe illness, hospitalization and death. While no vaccine is guaranteed to prevent 100 per cent of any illness, these vaccines are very protective."

AHS said all of the cases were outside of the 14 day post-vaccine window. 

Alberta reported 179 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and four more deaths.

With files from Jennifer Lee


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?